Russia successfully launched a military communications satellite into orbit Thursday (Feb. 20). The launch took place about one month later than planned due to a technical issue.
A Soyuz-2.1a rocket blasted off at 3:24 a.m. EST (0824 GMT or 11:24 a.m. Moscow time) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos.
"The launch of the launch vehicle, and the launch of the satellite into the calculated orbit, took place as usual," Roscosmos said in a statement (opens in new tab), which was translated into English using translation software.
Ground controllers have received telemetry (or data) from the deployed spacecraft, which is called Meridian M, showing that the spacecraft is working normally so far, Roscosmos said.
The rocket was supposed to lift off on Jan. 24, but the launch was delayed due to a technical problem in the Soyuz's third stage, according to Chinese space media Xinhua (opens in new tab). "The Soyuz-2 rocket had to be removed from the launch pad and returned to the assembly and testing facility to fix the problem," Xinhua said.
Meridian M is supposed to help ships and reconnaissance aircraft communicate along the northern sea region of Russia, as well as help expand satellite communications stations in more remote regions in Siberia and the Far East, Roscosmos added.
This is the first Soyuz-2 rocket family launch of 2020 from Plesetsk. In late December, a Rockot booster converted from an intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launched from Plesetsk, with three Gonets-M communications satellites on board. Rockot may also have carried a military payload, called Blits-M, that is meant to reflect lasers, according to industry-monitoring website RussianSpaceWeb.com (opens in new tab).
- 2 Russian satellites are stalking a US spysat in orbit. The Space Force is watching. (Report)
- Space calendar 2020: Rocket launches, sky events, missions & more!
- Russia replaces 2 cosmonauts on next space station crew, citing medical reasons
OFFER: Save at least 56% with our latest magazine deal! (opens in new tab)
All About Space magazine (opens in new tab) takes you on an awe-inspiring journey through our solar system and beyond, from the amazing technology and spacecraft that enables humanity to venture into orbit, to the complexities of space science.